Can sales managers influence the buying process?
It’s common knowledge that revenue is a lagging indicator. You can’t manage revenue. If sales close, you win. If they don’t, you lose. There’s no in-between. Then why are so many account based selling teams given revenue targets and let loose? Calls with their sales managers become about justifying why prospects should be in their pipelines in the first place, and discussing ways these account based sales reps can accelerate the buying process.
Revenue can be measured but not managed. Sales managers can, however, measure and manage the key sales activities and behaviors that drive revenue, and then set KPIs for those activities and behaviors. They can measure the right sales activities, manage to those activities, and coach account based sales reps on the behaviors that turn those activities into revenue.
Coach What You Can Control
Sales managers can’t control the buying process. But according to Tamara Schenk of CSO Insights, they can influence it by focusing on the right sales activities and coaching their account based selling teams.
In her excellent post—“Leading vs. Lagging: Where Should Sales Managers Focus?”—Schenk writes:
High performing people, regardless of their role, focus on the intersection of what matters and what they can control. For the sales manager, that means managing the right activities and coaching the related behaviors (leading indicators) that lead to the desired results (lagging indicators).
Coaching is a key concept here. In a sales context, coaching is a leadership skill that draws out a salesperson’s full potential by getting them to focus on the right activities and to improve the related behaviors that lead to the desired results, based on structured coaching conversations.
In our 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study, we found that a formal or even dynamic coaching process helped more salespeople to achieve their quota (by 10%), and win rates for forecast deals could be improved even more, by 28%.
Let’s be clear: We are not saying there shouldn’t be a focus on sales results. We are saying that the sales manager needs to focus on HOW to achieve the desired results instead of focusing on measuring the results afterward.
Read the rest of Schenk’s article to learn more about the right metrics for sales managers, and why a sales manager’s mantra is different from that of the sales leader.
My Favorite Metric: Referrals
Measuring referral activities is simple. Weekly metrics for each account based sales rep roll up into monthly and quarterly metrics. Measure the number of:
- Referrals asked for
- Referrals received
- Meetings scheduled
- Meetings conducted
- Deals closed through referrals
More importantly, coach reps based on these activities. Keep your team accountable and on track by asking specific questions, such as:
- Who are the people you’ll ask for referrals? Get names
- What are the outcomes you expect? Get metrics
- What are your discussion topics? Get these in writing
Before account based sales reps meet with referred prospects, provide coaching tips and discuss the following:
- What did you learn about the prospect from your referral source?
- Have you checked out the prospect’s LinkedIn profile? What have you learned?
- What are your other connections to this prospect?
- What interests do you have in common?
- How will you use this information in your meeting with the prospect?
When you measure and coach referral activities and behaviors, you don’t just meet your revenue goals. Your sales process shortens (time is money), your cost of sales decreases, and your competition disappears. Typically deal sizes are larger, and these clients willingly refer you to their networks.
Commit to referral selling as your primary outbound prospecting tool, build skills in referral selling, and coach and reinforce referral activities. It’s simple, but it’s not easy. However, referral introductions are your biggest competitive differentiation. Isn’t that a journey worth taking?
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